billy smith was on time for the most important event of his life, as were most of the other applicants.
he was issued a small tablet and directed to a seat in the middle of the auditorium, which seated around fifty thousand applicants and quickly filled up.
a person - who looked like a so-called “real” person, but might not have been, - came out on stage.
greetings, the person announced in a voice which did not seem to require a microphone.
as i am sure you all know, today is the defining moment of your existences, when you will be assigned your places in the great panorama of human society.
each of you has been given a small tablet. i ask each of you to please take your personal i d card and tap it on the tablet, to turn the tablet on and to register yourself. the penalty for using a fake i d card, or one not properly belonging to you, is quite severe, as i am sure you know. there are attendants in the aisles if anyone needs any assistance. these attendants will be happy to assist you if for whatever reason you are incapable of writing on the tablet.
all set? that was not too difficult, was it? now, we come to the important part. as you see, there are three spaces on the tablet to list three possible identities for you to be assigned. obviously, everybody can not be assigned everything they wish. for example, there are only two thousand openings for football players, one thousand for movie actors, twenty for the featured stars of those movies, about a hundred for trained deadly assassins, five for best selling novelists, ten for members of the royal family, ten for members of the great council, and one for council president. but there are twenty billion people in the world, with about two hundred million of you new applicants every year.
your existences, waking and sleeping, have been tracked since birth. those of you who have even the slightest chance of achieving one of the more coveted slots, will have been made aware of it many times over. therefore we ask you to be realistic in stating your preferences. because, as you have been told all your lives, if you make an unrealistic selection that has no chance of success, you will be moved to the bottom of the application pool, where you will be lucky to be assigned such roles as protest mob extra, front step paper bag wine drinker, itinerant fruit picker, street corner raver, or homeless crackhead. one last time, i implore you to be realistic. there is nothing shameful about being a bus person, a rest room attendant, or a full time tv watcher.
thank you. please make your choices.
billy smith wasted no thought or time in writing in his three choices. they were:
1. quarterback for the moscow marauders
2. trained deadly assassin
3. movie star
most of the persons in attendance made their choices with the same alacrity. it took billy about ten minutes to hand in his tablet, exit the auditorium, and disappear into the night.
the alien ambassador made his demands politely but unequivocally, and mr fred smith, who in his capacity as the recognized “richest man on earth” was representing the human race , had no choice but to agree to them with a smile.
the list of demands was almost complete.
the humans were to surrender to the aliens the following quantities of the following items:
200 billion tons of sand
200 billion tons of mud
400 billion tons of soybeans
100 million cubic miles of salt water
1 million cubic miles of fresh water
5 billion cows
20 billion chickens
40,000 tons of gold
2 billion kg of silver
1 billion oranges
1 billion lemons
20 tons each of broccoli, lima beans, and brussel sprouts
i think we can manage all that, mr smith informed the ambassador. is there anything else we can help you with?
as a matter of fact there is.
and what might that be?
a substance we are not familiar with, but which you earthlings seem to set great store by, so we assume it must be very useful. you yourself are considered to have the largest amount of any one earthling, and we believe that is why you have been chosen to negotiate with us.
oh, you must be talking about money.
so you want some money? how much?
we have to determine what it is. then, we can decide if we want any and how much..
so, what is it?
that is hard to say.
try. you ought to know, you supposedly have plenty of it. according to my notes, you have 400 billion units of it. give us half, and we can decide if we like it or want it and we can go from there.
i could give you some of the things i can get with 200 billion - gold, silver, beads, pork bellies. money used to be those things.
we have already told you what we want of those things. come, sir, you are beginning to try our patience.
i could give you some art works. the mona lisa? something by picasso or andy warhol? how about the sistine chapel? i bet the sistine chapel would like nice on your planet.
we have no use for such rubbish. and we do not have “a planet”. and we do not have all time to discuss this. deliver some of this money, now, so that we can load it on board if we want it.
i could give you a note for it.
a note? you mean put a number on a piece of paper?
yes, i suppose you could put it that way.
and that is your final answer.
i suppose that it is.
so you will not give us any money. i ask you one last time - why not?
well, because there is really no such thing.
you are trifling with us, sir. the galactic federation does not care to be trifled with. we leave you for now, but you will hear from us.
and with that, the ambassador departed, leaving mr smith, and his fellow earthlings, alone with their thoughts.
elon musk and jeff bezos sat in deck chairs on the roof of the rulers of the world club, sipping gin and tonics.
george soros was napping in an easy chair in the corner of the roof, and mark zuckerberg was doing a 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle on the floor.
vladimir putin and crown prince mohammed were playing cribbage at a table in the opposite corner.
suddenly george soros woke up, and blurted out -
let the people go!
you know, elon musk said to jeff bezos, i think that might be a good idea.
i do too, jeff bezos replied, i have been thinking along those lines myself.
vladimir putin chimed in. let’s do it!
hear, hear! the crown prince added heartily.
and so it was settled.
it was announced all over the world that civilization was disbanded and its inhabitants were free to go back home.
the towns and cities, the factories and offices and schools and universities and military bases and seaports quickly emptied.
the eight billion inhabitants of the planet drifted back to the countryside where the accumulated nuts and berries and mushrooms of centuries waited for them.
the same scenes of joy and exhiliaration were repeated a billion times over.
jared carter, 15, of waxahachie texas exclaimed, i have dreamed of this day all my life. this is even better than making the football team!
anna jardine, 88, of vienna austria, who had been confined to a wheelchair for twenty-two years, got up and walked.
the reverend mark tucker-st john, of stokely-on-the-marsh, set fire to his church before abandoning it and joining the throng rushing to the countryside, and shouted to the sky - freedom, freedom, freedom!
i knew it would happen if i just waited long enough, willem johnson, an uber driver in oslo norway,, told a reporter.
ali, a holy man in azerbaijan, came down from his mountain and headed to the countryside. on his way he met his brother selim, whom he hd not seen in nineteen years and who had been working as a busboy at a burger king in baku. now they were both free!
astronauts and waitpersons, financial consultants and pizza delivery drivers, prison guards and prosecutors and panhandlers, housewives and tv producers and assassins, embraced and danced as they left the metropolises behind to crumble into dust.
everywhere teeth crunched on nuts, and the juice of billions of berries ran down billions of chins.
and the sun came up - really came up and dispersed the clouds.
the invaders had set up “information centers” in large and small cities and towns all over earth, where the natives were invited to come in and ask any questions they might have as to the details of the occupation.
questions could only be asked by a human in person at one of the “centers”. they could not be asked in writing and of course could not be asked electronically or on recordings, as all devices for doing so were strictly forbidden to humans.
each center was staffed by a single alien, so the waiting period to ask a question could be quite long, especially in the early days of the conquest.
nevertheless, jody sue martin, a middle school student from terre haute indiana, put three sandwiches, a bottle of mineral water and a copy of the princess casamassima by henry james into her backpack, and took the bus to the nearest information center, in indianapolis.
she had only to wait four hours to ask her question - she had been prepared to wait eight hours.
what is your question? young lady, the alien asked politely.
this may be a question you have been asked before, jody sue began.
that is entirely possible.
jody sue had carefully phrased and rehearsed her question, and began:
here is my question - the guest force ( ed. note - the aliens’ name for the invading force) is requisitioning large numbers of humans - hundreds of millions to start, but probably to eventually number in the billions - to travel to other solar systems and galaxies to do what appears to us to be the lowest type of manual labor, such as had virtually disappeared from our own technologically inferior civilization. it seems to us humans that a civilization capable of interstellar travel would hardly have need for such primitive means of manipulating matter. could you explain why this is not so?
you have, the alien replied, hit upon the answer with the word “seem”. though it may “seem” so to your human brains, it is far from the case. i am afraid the reasons for this can not be comprehended by said human brains.
and that is the only answer you can give me?
yes, it is.
though disappointed, jody sue thanked the alien, and yielded her chair to the next questioner. it could have been worse and taken longer, she reflected philosophically.
she did manage to finish the princess casamassima on the bus ride back to terre haute, and to save the third sandwich for her lunch the next day.
he called himself a card sharp
and he dressed the part
with a string tie and a little mustache
he sat at the bar
riffling a deck of cards
naturally, nobody wanted to play with him
or gave him any action
when he managed to sit in on a game
not even the dummy or the indian
gave him any action
so what was he up to?
the turk thought
he was some kind of federal lawman
and so did the chinaman
he hung around, on and off
finally, the scotchman said
i have had enough
i am sick of looking at his foolish face
shuffling his stupid deck of cards
that nobody will play with except himself
a hush fell over the bar
when the scotchman said something
he meant it, he was not
the irishman or the dago or the russian
nobody ever saw the card sharp again
did he take the hint
or asked questions
the game went on
the way it was meant to be
and the moon came out at night
smiling and relieved
the archangel michael , wielding a flaming sword, appeared to mr elon musk in a dream and suggested that he divest himself of his wealth and spread it evenly among the world’s population.
mr musk agreed to do this, and on waking, ordered his underlings to set in motion the proceedings to do this.
it was determined that mr musk’s wealth was 250 billion dollars, and that there were 7.9 billion persons on the planet.
this came to $31.75 per person. this amount was directed to the bank accounts of every person in the planet who had a bank account, and checks for the amount were sent to the phones of all the persons without bank accounts.
747 persons on the planet could not be contacted by either of these methods , so mr musk was left with a bank account of $23,717.25.
with this money he purchased a used 2020 chevrolet impala, and drove it to an employment agency in gainesville florida, where he found a job as an assistant golf pro at a club outside ocala florida.
what did people do with their $31.75? here are are a few sample answers, mostly from the united states and europe. as results of surveys come in from south america, asia, and africa, a clearer picture may emerge.
samuel d johnson, a used car salesman from binghamton new york, treated himself - himself - to a steak dinner at applebee’s and left a good tip.
ramona richards. a homeless person in seattle washington, purchased $31.75 worth of recreational drugs.
carl collins, a second year agroforestry student at stephen f austin state university in nagodoches texas, also purchased $31.75 of recreational drugs.
desiree davies, a self-described survivalist living outside pocatello idaho, bought. $31.75 worth of rhubarb seeds.
conrad harker, of liverpool england, gave his money to his elderly mother.
11 year old sarah nelson, of regina sasketchawan put the money in the savings account she had started for her college tuition. she hopes to study creative writing.
jude mccarthy of meeker colorado gave his money to a fund set up to purchase guns to arm teachers in local schools.
dave carter, a self described adventurer living on the boardwalk at atlantic city new jersey, put all his money on red at one of the local casinos but the black came up.
reverend peter smith, a retired clergymen in bath, england, happliy purchased a somewhat faded second hand copy of sir walter scott’s count robert of paris, printed in 1840, illustrated by eugene delacroix.
abby carter-matthews, an aspiring model living in manhattan and supported by her family, gave the money to the first panhandler who approached her.
of course, this is just a made up story.
but suppose it was real. what would you do with your $31.75?